New Report: This Is the No. 1 Happiest State in America

Updated: Sep. 28, 2023

Happiness may be a state of mind—but according to a new report, it's also abundant in one highly elevated state.

Someone wise would probably tell you that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence—but research suggests life is rosier in some areas of the country than others. Kindness reigns in the Reader’s Digest–appointed Nicest Places in America. Some of the best places to live in the United States beat the competition when it comes to affordable housing, available jobs and stunning scenery. Now new research has found that there’s a state actually known for being the happiest.

Sure, Disney may be marketed as “the happiest place on earth,” but that doesn’t mean the entire state of Florida is happier than the rest of us. In fact, according to a recent analysis compiled by the team at WalletHub, the happiest state in America is one you would might not expect. (And, as it turns out, that state doesn’t physically have very green grass…)

Read on to learn which state leaves its residents smiling, plus the top 10 states to live in for a happier life.

The happiness metrics

To determine the happiest state in America, WalletHub evaluated each state with 30 relevant metrics in three major categories: emotional and physical well-being, community and environment, and work environment. The analysis used research from previous data and studies on happiness published in the past decade.

WalletHub graded each metric on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing maximum happiness. Some of these metrics included physical health, mental health (depression), life expectancy, suicide rate, social well-being, unemployment rate, job security, work stress, commute time, volunteer rate, ideal weather, divorce rate and average leisure time.

So which state is considered the happiest? Surprisingly enough, the happiest state in America isn’t home to the most popular city to live in or even the best place to retire. But it may offer a solid chance at a content life.

Trapeze Classes Made Me the Fittest (and Happiest) I’ve Ever Been: I Tried It

The happiest state in America

Park City, Utah, USA downtown in autumn at dusk.

Using those metrics, WalletHub calculated each state’s average to land on its overall happiness score (out of 100). When all the numbers were crunched, the team reported that Utah ranks as the happiest state in America, with a score of 69.79.

Looks like you have a very good reason to finally head out on that Utah road trip. (We promise: It’s one of the best road trips in the country.)

People Who Did This One Thing at Age 50 Were the Healthiest at Age 80

The top 10 happiest states in America

Utah may come out on top, but there are other states with high total scores for measures of well-being, work environment and community. If you’re trying to be happy, these are the states for you:

  1. Utah (69.79)
  2. Hawaii (69.42)
  3. Maryland (64.62)
  4. Minnesota (62.82)
  5. New Jersey (61.98)
  6. Connecticut (60.68)
  7. California (60.53)
  8. Florida (59.31)
  9. Idaho (59.31)
  10. Nebraska (58.92)

Utah is rated No. 1 for its work environment, along with community and natural environment. But it isn’t exactly at the top of the emotional and physical well-being list, scoring a 16 in that category. The second-happiest state in America—Hawaii—earned the top slot for that metric.

What Is a ‘Slow Living’ Lifestyle?

The least-happy states in America

A woman perched on a rocky outcrop looks out over the New River Gorge Bridge in Wild West Virginia. A moody sky and foggy river below add drama.

WalletHub’s study didn’t just rank the happiest states in the country; it ranked all the states. That means we have an idea of the unhappiest states as well. According to the data, these 10 states have the lowest scores in terms of overall happiness, in descending order:

  • Oklahoma (44.09)
  • New Mexico (43.49)
  • Alaska (42.20)
  • Mississippi (41.42)
  • Alabama (40.82)
  • Kentucky (40.58)
  • Arkansas (39.72)
  • Tennessee (38.30)
  • Louisiana (35.86)
  • West Virginia (35.08)

The Happiness Diet: 7 Best Mood-Boosting Foods, from Nutrition and Brain Experts

Compared with the rest of the nation, the 10 least-happy states scored lowest for emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community and environment. They also have some of the highest rates of adult depression, lowest rates of adequate sleep, highest divorce rates and even lowest rates of overall safety.

All in all, the old saying does ring true: The grass really is greener where you water it. But based on this analysis, we won’t argue that it may be harder in some states to keep your grass green and your attitude rosy.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest